We Train Our Eyes To See With Passion


Mixing a thousand colors and placing a couple thousand strokes in just the right place on my canvas takes a lot of strength and time. The strength is in holding the hand still to paint an eye, or a tree branch. A millimeter can change the feel of a painting by changing the expression the artist is going for. A tree branch can hold the grace of a ballerina or be a lumbering ox. Studying the beauty of a woman can raise a simple landscape to the heavenly place we dream about. How an artist sees makes the difference between a masterpiece and simply marks on a canvas. We train our eyes to see with passion. A couple sharing a meal in the shade of a tree needs the artist to see lasting love and affection when the couple has fifty two years together. We see through our own experiences and dreams when painting.

My paintings are more detailed than most impressionists because I have more of a story to tell, more feelings I need to share. Even in a landscape I want people to see and feel what I saw and experienced while I was there. The multitudes of greens in a field of green, the tiny flowers on the plants we call weeds one day then wildflowers the next. Bees with stingers, look but don't touch, fly about from flower to flower reminding us of lessons our parents instilled in us as curious toddlers. A landscapes is more than a simple painting of the land around us. A grasshopper reminds me of a boy sitting in a field attempting to draw a grasshopper eating away at a leaf. Those thoughts cause me to reach for a smaller brush to add a leaf in just so.

Painting is more than pretty colors and wild brush work, its living through past experiences while being in the present. I so admire artists who can be so loose and so energetic with their paintings. They inspire me. Yet, when I try to be like them my own experiences flood in and the small brushes come out.

I haven’t found that grasshopper I started on again yet, but some day.

Bees Seem To Go For The Color Blue

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Today I am working on a 30x40 oil of Nelson’s Lake, a local preserve west of Batavia, Illinois. Lower right corner is where I will be adding paint. I’ve made many, many trips out to this preserve over the years. Met the couple who began it by restoring their farm to its natural, wild state. They have passed on since then and now the state maintains the preserve. The wildflowers, the birds, snakes, and snapping turtles make their home there, along with deer. Pelicans visit as they migrate, birds of prey raise families here. Insects of all kinds keep the wildflowers pollenated and humans running for their Deep Woods Off , which in my case seems to be the dinner bell.

On my first visit to the place my students and myself were visited by several different kinds of snakes, all harmless - I think. Linda, my friends wife, was petrified as a few charged us. Linda is afraid of worms so it was a real remembrance for her. Another trip a swarm of bees surrounded us. No stings, just a few had to be pulled from our palettes and paintings. These bees seem to go for the color blue. Spent many Sundays out there with my class teaching painting and learning from them about which plants were edible and which kept flies away.

These days I work in my studio from photos of Nelson’s Lake and from the few plein air paintings I have left from my many trips out there. My eyes see many more colors now than I did while actually there. I smile each morning entering the studio remembering a screaming Linda as three garden snakes slid under her stool one Sunday. Forty years later I watch Jordan pick up a tiny toad from the path, talk to it, and move it to a safer place.

I remember these little things as I mix colors and lift my brush to just the right spot and lay in a blade of grass, or give the milkweed one more summer leaf. A touch more yellow for one green than a bit more blue to another. Several greens are already there on my palette straight from the tub, but the greens of nature call for more mixing, and for greying in some cases. Greying things is not usually in my nature, in most cases embellishing is my way. There are times, though, where a touch of black is called for. My days are full when painting, remembering, making decisions, and mixing and lifting dabs of color.